Guidelines for a Work from Home Policy

Organizations can take a number of measures to prepare for the possibility that staff will need to work remotely for some period of time. Taking these measures, and developing a work from home policy that is tailored to your organization’s specific concerns and needs, can ensure business continuity while employees are away from the office.

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What Can Organizations do Now to Prepare for a Work from Home Policy?

Organizations should think ahead when it comes to a work from home policy.

To prepare for the possibility that workers will need to operate remotely for a period of time, organizations should take the following measures:

  • Take an inventory of the types of equipment employees need to get work done remotely.
  • Ensure employees have access to this equipment, which can include laptops, desktops, chargers, phones, and office supplies.
  • Talk to your employees. Encourage them to prepare for the possibility of an immediate announcement to work from home. 
  • Encourage employees to develop a “ready bag,” which they can take home at the end of the workday to allow them to begin to work from home with little to no notice. Ready bag items can include smartphones, laptops, and physical items including documents and materials.
  • Clearly communicate with employees about which physical items may be taken from the workplace, and which must remain at the worksite at all times
  • Create digital copies of relevant documents to facilitate working from home.
  • Develop a work from home policy.

What Should a Work from Home Policy Contain?

A work from home policy should first and foremost set forth expectations you have for your staff when they work from home. The single most important concept a policy can convey is your expectation that the business maintain as close-to-normal business operations during any work from home period. As you develop your work from home policy, you should address the following concerns and put decisions about them into the policy:

  • Are employees simply encouraged to work from home, or are they forbidden from coming to the office?
  • Will certain personnel be exempt from any rule prohibited working onsite? Which personnel? Under what circumstances?
  • Under the work from home policy, will employees be required to be available at all times during working hours? During what times may employees take a lunch break or attend to family matters?
  • Will remote meetings and appointments be scheduled in advance?
  • How will remote meetings take place? Online, using a webcam? Through a service such as GoToMeeting or Zoom?  Over the telephone? Through a telephone conference call?
  • Will in-person meetings be limited to essential personnel?
  • Will in-person meetings be restricted to a certain size (i.e., three to five workers) in the event of pandemic or other emergency where social distancing has been encouraged?
  • Will employees be permitted to communicate with customers? Through what medium? What may employees say to customers if the customer asks questions about the fact that employees are now working remotely?
  • What work-from-home information should you include in your business continuity plan and disaster recovery plan?
  • Can workers meet with third parties while remotely performing company business?
  • Do you have sufficient security measures in place to enable workers to work from places outside of their homes, such as businesses or libraries? 
  • Do you have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy in place that addresses whether workers may perform work using their own computers, phones, and other devices?
  • How often will you send status updates about whether working remotely will continue?

How Can a Work from Home Policy be Enforced?

A work from home policy will only be effective if expectations are clearly stated, and if employees are made aware of the consequences of not complying with the work from home policy.  Ensuring expectations are met with respect to operational matters consists of:

  • Agreeing on a single (or several) communication platform in which all workers must participate. The platform can be email, videoconferencing, or some other tool.
  • Evaluate how much time it is “worth” to monitor remote worker productivity. It is not unrealistic to expect that there will be reduced productivity among some workers while they work remotely. As you consider productivity issues, also be cognizant of whether remote workers may be overworked. To the extent feasible, track productivity in an “overall” manner, instead focusing on moment-by-moment activities.
  • Providing a way for employees to feel connected to the organization. This can be accomplished by distributing meeting agendas, meeting minutes, and after-meeting tasks lists. Having such measures can also keep those who cannot attend, in the loop.
  • If possible, schedule virtual team lunches and digital social time, so employees can interact on a social level.
  • Treat all employees equally and fairly in administering the work from home policy. This can be done by setting forth expectations about sick leave, vacation time, and paid time off (PTO) policies, and administering these policies fairly.